Sunday, March 29, 2009

Outsourcing the truth: A lobby at work

From Melanie Phillips

An organization of Arab journalists in charge of what and how British media report on Israel:

The evening began with a welcome speech by AMW chairman Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi, who outlined the extensive work done by the organisation during and since Israel's invasion of Gaza, including:

- forcing the media to correct factual errors
- meeting with editors and journalists
- providing them with information
- being interviewed by them or arranging interviews for them
- getting letters and articles published
- being quoted and cited in articles
- publishing studies, press releases and Action Alerts
- organising and speaking at events
- helping university students and researchers

Read the whole thing.


And while the upbeat Arab media lobby is celebrating its many successes in the dissemination of propaganda-quality disinformation and untruths about Israel and Israelis, the mills of traditional journalism continue to turn slowly. Sometime they actually produce some bread-worthy flour:

(From Snapshots, a Camera blog via: Martin Kramer):

The New York Times has now run a follow-up article on the Gaza atrocities reports that, while far from perfect, corrects and rebuts many of the false charges that spread from Ha'aretz to news outlets around the world.

The article, which was on the Times website on Friday, was published in the Saturday paper (which has the lowest circulation of the week) on page four, not on page one above the fold like the Times' first article on the subject. Still the article admits that the alleged killing by an Israeli sniper of the mother and her two daughters was an "urban myth" that almost certainly did not occur, and quotes Israeli soldiers including Yishai Goldflam on how they tried to avoid harming innocent Palestinians and their property.

The article also quotes an Israeli academic who has studied the impact of the growing proportion of religious soldiers in the IDF and the influence of rabbis on the conduct of these soldiers. According to the professor the rabbis have had a moderating impact on the soldiers, contradicting claims in the Times ("A Religious War in Israel’s Army") and elsewhere* that rabbis had called for a religious or "holy war" against the Arabs and specificaly in Gaza.

For accounts from more IDF soldiers which contradict the rumors published earlier in Ha'aretz and the New York Times, see the new Web site, "Soldiers Speak Out."

*: Link added by CC

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"The Global Anti-Aggression conference in Istanbul"

Atlantic Blog:

There is an interesting little storm in Britain involving Hazel Blears, Britain's Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and Daud Abdullah, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. Blears has withdrawn engagement with the Muslim Council of Britain over a conference attended by Abdullah, which produced a curious little document. In a letter to the Guardian, Blears said this:

Over the past two weeks the government has been privately engaging with the Muslim Council of Britain through meetings and correspondence to establish whether one of their senior members attended the Global Anti-Aggression conference in Istanbul, and if so, whether he also signed the Istanbul declaration that calls for violence against troops and Jewish communities. This is not grandstanding. The government would be shirking its duty if it fails to investigate any potential threat to the security of our troops and communities. We must take this extremely seriously.

That is why we have been asking the MCB to find out whether their deputy secretary general, Dr Abdullah, attended the conference and signed the statement. The MCB has now confirmed he did attend and did sign the declaration. A declaration that supports violence against foreign forces – which could include British naval personnel – as the prime minister has offered British naval support to stop the smuggling of weapons to Gaza; and advocating attacks on Jewish communities all around the world.

The Guardian did not merely print Blears letter, it practiced journalism by linking to the post at Harry's Place which not only reprinted the controversial part, but also linked to the entire document. The Guardian also published Abdullah's response, disputing Blears' assertions, and again the Guardian linked to the document in dispute, allowing readers to decide for themselves whether Blears is wrong or Abdullah's denials are dishonest weaselling. Here is the particularly controversial bit.
7. The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard everyone standing with the Zionist entity, whether countries, institutions or individuals, as providing a substantial contribution to the crimes and brutality of this entity; the position towards him is the same as towards this usurping entity.

8. The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways.

Harry's Place points out the obvious: the reference to "individuals" is an unsubtle call for terrorism against civilians with impure thoughts, and paragraph 8 is a call for attacks on British troops (British ships are patrolling the arms embargo on Gaza), the same thing that got George Galloway kicked out of the Labour Party. Harry's Place calls for trying Abdullah for treason. Any doubts that Abdullah is just misunderstood are cleared away by a letter in today's Guardian supporting him, with thirty signatures, nine of them named. They include Saddam stooge Tony Benn, Jew baiter Ken Livingstone, Jenny Booth (the former Liberal Democrat front bencher sacked for praising suicide bombers), Iranian government employee Lauren Booth (she presents "Between the Headlines" on the Iranian governments tv station Press TV, Kate Hudson and Bruce Kent of the CND, Anas Altikriti of George Galloway's Respect party, and Andrew Murray, the communist head of the Stop the War Coalition, known for his admiration for Joe Stalin and the charming government of North Korea. With friends like that, it pretty much says it all.

Them who have the bluest eyes...

"Brazil's President, while meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Thursday, said the global financial crisis was caused by "white people with blue eyes." (source)

Are the Swedes responsible for the global financial crisis? (They are reputed to be white, blond and blue-eyed.)

The Norwegians?

Icelanders? (
Almost 92% of the population in Iceland has either green or blue eye color)

(Blue eyes have become increasingly rare among U.S. children with only 1 out of every 6, or 16 percent of the United States population having blue eyes)

etc., etc.,

So who is responsible for the global financial problems?

Friday, March 27, 2009

History Lesson: Ernest Bevin A Statesman and an Antisemite

The Iconoclast remembers:

Ernest Bevin was a crude man with crude thoughts, and an antisemite. He was an antisemite, when it was not, as it had been a decade before, and would become several decades later, the easy and popular thing. He was a vicious antisemite when sympathy for the Jews was at its height, and it is instructive to remember just how disappointingly low that “at its height” turned out to be. He was amazingly unsympathetic to the survivors of those camps, and unsympathetic to Zionism. He suggested that perhaps the Jews who remained alive should stay in Europe – even stay in Germany, now that the Nazis were not in control (but there were millions of Nazis and their sympatheizers and collaborators all over Germany, as he surely must have known). He enforced a cruel blockade preventing Jewish survivors from reaching Palestine – the Exodus offers one example. American and British Jews, former servicemen in World War II, who volunteered to serve on these missions of bringing Jews longing to go to Palestine from the DP camps, were even beaten to death by British soldiers. Ernest Bevin not only found nothing wrong with this, but while preventing Jews from reaching Palestine, he warned in November, 1947 darkly that "if the Jews, with all their sufferings, want to get too much at the head of the queue ...” – this at a time when hundreds of thousands of Jews were languishing in camps in Germany itself, and in other scenes of their mass-murder, amidst the ashes and corpses of their own relatives – this could lead to a new eruption of anti-Semitism.

While Bevin was Foreign Minister, Great Britain not only continued the policy of the 1939 White Paper, essentially keeping Mandatory Palestine off-limits to Jewish refugees, but he embargoed all arms shipments to the Jews of Israel, while at the same time being perfectly complicit in the continued supplying of arms, and of training, by British officers to the armies of Egypt, Jordan (the Arab Legion under John Glubb, or Glubb Pasha), and Iraq. British intelligence knew that members of the Hanzar Brigade of the Waffen S.S., consisting of Bosnian Muslims, had come to the Middle East to help the Arabs against the Jews, and did nothing. Germans, Nazis war criminals, began to show up in Cairo and in Damascus, and the British said nothing, did nothing. Meanwhile, the Jews of Palestine, who during the war had volunteered for suicide missions against the Germans in Egypt, in Syria, and in Iraq, were treated by the British with contumely, and worse.


Ernest Bevin continued to rant against the Jews throughout his tenure as foreign minister. There is, for example, the testimony of Christopher Mayhew, in his diary entry for May 1948: 'must make a note about Ernest's anti-semitism … There is no doubt in my mind that Ernest detests Jews. He makes the odd wisecrack about the 'Chosen People'; explains Shinwell away as a Jew; declares the Old Testament is the most immoral book ever written … He says they taught Hitler the technique of terror – and were even now paralleling the Nazis in Palestine.”

Ian Mikardo, a Jewish M.P. and a left-wing Labourite, offers similar testimony in his own “Memoirs” published decades later, when he noted how Bevin would go on and on about Jewish conspiracies. James McDonald, the American diplomat who became the first American ambassador to Israel, and who had worked on the question of Jewish refugees in the 1930s, wrote in his own diaries that he had been shocked at the antisemitism displayed by Bevin in his conversations with McDonald: hatred of Israel, of the United States and, above all, hatred of ‘the Jews.’


Bevin's name is mentioned in this post of mine.

"Falk you"

Ami Isseroff says:

Recently, Amos Harel of Haaretz created a sensation by "exposing" the "confessions" of alleged "Zionist war criminal" soldiers. The soldiers told of some "war crimes," which, as it turns out, never happened. One soldier, however, told of having to fold the blankets and tidy up after staying in a Gaza house, which was the home of a family of Hamas terrorists "activists." That was the only part of the "confessions" that is verified by eye-witnesses. A terrible Zionist crime for certain!

Another story "exposed" the somewhat questionable black humor of souvenir T-shirts ordered by IDF troops, a story that was blown up out of proportion to its worth. Both these stories created sensations among all the terror groupies. Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur in charge of calling Israelis Nazis, announced that he is certain the IDF committed war crimes.

We have created some appropriate IDF elite commando unit T-shirt designs of our own. Be the first on your block to own these macho hardline Jew Zionist T-Shirts! Guaranteed politically cracked!

A t-shirt gallery here. (Graphic humour, watch out!)

PC term for Terrorism: “Overseas Contingency Operation.”

A short person is "vertically-challenged", a liar is "truth-challenged", a beautiful woman suffers from "lookism", a bad person is "morally-challenged" ... and a terrorist is now an overseas contingency operative...

I. Norm of Normblog has been recording instances in which 'the struggle formerly known as the War on Terror' reveals itself to be what it actually is: war against terrorism, in spite of semantic and nominal contortions.

He first uses the ACRONYM here:

This is a bit of a puzzle. Barack Obama writes (and he also says):

Tomorrow, we'll gather at a new time of great challenge for the American people. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in turmoil.

Hmmm... What war is that, then? Wars, don't you know, are between states, and though the US is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan there's no war with either of those two countries. It must be the war we're repeatedly called on not to think of as a war or, indeed, to name as one. It's what a friend suggests we might now call 'the struggle formerly known as the "war on terror"'. Et tu Barack, oh, Barack - how you do let them down.

But it was a provisional title, to make do with until the "Struggle" gets officially baptized under a more suitable name.

II. We now have it:

The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration has renamed the Global War on Terror. Apparently it is no longer a war, nor is terror worth mentioning. It is now the “Overseas Contingency Operation.”

Or, I suppose, if you want something a little snappier, the OCO.

Claudia Rossett calls this renaming ceremony what it is: attempt to bury realities in bureaucratic blather. Its yet more of the engagement attempt, in which President Obama sits in a chair and wishes Happy New Year by webcast to Irans leaders. They respond by taking a break from their nuclear bomb program to rally a mob chanting Overseas Contingency Operation Death to America.

III. I have an example for this type of thinking, from my translation studies days. A rose, as the bard said, by any other name, is always a rose.

Final Solution or Total Solution?

In the Nurenberg Trials, Translation played a crucial role in communication, due to the large variety of nations represented in the proceedings. Skilled and professional translators were employed to try and help the judges get as close to the truth as possible. In spite of this, when the Nazi Propaganda Minister Goering was questioned, he managed quite successfully to cast doubts as to the way certain terms, quoted from official Nazi documents, were translated from the German. In seeking to mitigate the damage done to his defense by those documents, he kept arguing that many quotes were mistranslated, and that the correct translation would account for a different story than the one unfolded during the trials. I will describe one such attempt.

When cross-examination turned to the persecution of the Jewish population, the prosecution presented as evidence a short letter from Goering to Heydrich in which "the final solution to the Jewish problem" was the main issue. Goering challenged the translation, claiming that the correct term should have stated "the total solution" to the Jewish problem, and not the "final solution" as it came to be known in contemporary Western media. This example testifies to the complexity of an ethics of translation, which cannot apparently be divorced from the context in which it occurs. Goering the translator seems to have adhered to a principle of “resistancy”: He ostensibly wants to keep close to the authentic term supplied in his Native German in attempting to deal with the question of Jewish persecution. However, it is doubtful whether concern with linguistic accuracy guided him in this instance. It is more likely that he wanted to mutate the understanding of his target audience; aware of the heavy charge that had accrued to the term "final solution” he aimed at lessening the burden by suggesting that another term be used instead. A changed term such as “the total solution” would have divested the concept of its immediate connotations, blunting the sharpness of the allusion and thus maybe softening its impact, to Goering's advantage in court. In this case, the court may have conceded certain linguistic points to the accused, yet is there any question that in the context of historical evidence, any term selected to describe the genocidal plans would have eventually assumed the same charged meaning?

IV: Mind games.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What if...,

Eve Garrard asks:

How did we get to this stage, where parts of the liberal-left in Britain are quite unashamedly prepared to deploy some of the most traditional tropes of anti-Semitism? The standard explanation given is that the 'root cause' of all this hostility lies in the behaviour and sometimes the existence of Israel. The causal arrow, it is claimed, runs from Israel's existence and crimes to current hostility to Jews both in Israel and in the rest of the world. But this explanation is not a convincing one, since the much greater crimes of other states have produced nothing like the febrile animosity and persistent demands for punishment and ostracism (at the very least) that Israel has attracted, far less the demands for the destruction of the offending state itself. So we need a better explanation, and it's tempting to think of one in which the causal arrow is reversed, in which it's hostility to Jews which is in the driving seat, a hostility which explains the distorted perception of Israel as uniquely malevolent and hence to be uniquely excoriated.

This reversal of the causal arrow doesn't produce a fully satisfactory explanation either... But reversing the direction of the causal arrow does produce an instructive thought experiment... Suppose that there were indeed a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the UK, particularly on the left. What would we expect to find? What would treatment of the Jews be like, as this new version of Jew-hatred got under way?

Read it all on Normblog.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Palestinian's View about "pro-Palestinian" activism in American Campuses

Khaled Abu Toameh on discovering support for Hamas is greater on American campuses than it is in Ramallah:

The so-called pro-Palestinian “junta” on the campuses has nothing to offer other than hatred and de-legitimization of Israel. If these folks really cared about the Palestinians, they would be campaigning for good government and for the promotion of values of democracy and freedom in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Their hatred for Israel and what it stands for has blinded them to a point where they no longer care about the real interests of the Palestinians, namely the need to end the anarchy and lawlessness, and to dismantle all the armed gangs that are responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians over the past few years.

The majority of these activists openly admit that they have never visited Israel or the Palestinian territories. They don’t know -and don’t want to know - that Jews and Arabs here are still doing business together and studying together and meeting with each other on a daily basis because they are destined to live together in this part of the world. They don’t want to hear that despite all the problems life continues and that ordinary Arab and Jewish parents who wake up in the morning just want to send their children to school and go to work before returning home safely and happily.

What is happening on the U.S. campuses is not about supporting the Palestinians as much as it is about promoting hatred for the Jewish state. It is not really about ending the “occupation” as much as it is about ending the existence of Israel.

In his position, Abu-Toameh joins Nizo whom I have quoted before.

Concern over M-E Nukes

Mick Hartley makes a very cogent observation:

Amir Taheri on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East:

There is no doubt that the current nuclear race in the Middle East is largely prompted by the fear of a revolutionary Iran using an arsenal as a means of establishing hegemony in the region. Iran's rivals for regional leadership, especially Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are aware of the propaganda appeal of the Islamic Republic's claim of being " the first Muslim superpower" capable of defying the West and rivaling it in scientific and technological fields. In that context, Tehran's development of long-range missiles and the Muslim world's first space satellite are considered political coups.

It's been an open secret for years that Israel possesses nuclear capability. It's an interesting comment on the genuine - as opposed to rhetorical - threat that the Zionist Entity is deemed to pose that it's only now, when Iran is on the verge of joining the nuclear club, that other Middle Eastern and Arab countries get concerned about developing their own programs.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Growing Unease

Thoughtlessness seems to emerge as one of President's Obama's major weaknesses.

Recent examples include:

Controlled anger as constructive policies?

These statements are clever and ridiculous. You can't "channel" this kind of anger, let alone constructively. Populist anger is often illiberal and indiscriminate. The post-Civil War populist movement brought needed changes but also disenfranchised African-Americans in the South through Jim Crow laws and physical terror. As historian Richard Hofstadter noted in his famous book "The Age of Reform" (1955), the connection was not accidental. Further, Hofstadter cautioned, it is hard for political leaders to see the moment at which a populist outburst "has passed beyond the demand for necessary reforms" to "the expression of a resentment so inclusive" that it attacks the capacity of society to sustain values such as the rule of law.

Special Olympics

So, Raimer said, he was displeased to hear of President Barack Obama's recent comment on The Tonight Show, in which he jokingly disparaged his own bowling skills by comparing them to the "Special Olympics."

"I was very disturbed," Raimer said. "It hurt. It just hurt."

A number of county residents involved with Special Olympics said they felt Obama's comment had no real malice behind it, although they did feel it was ill advised.

Loretta Claiborne of York is an internationally known Special Olympian who has been the subject of a book and a Disney movie.

She acknowledges that every one says something he or she regrets at some time or another. Still, she believes that someone as prominent as the president of the United States should think before he speaks.

Everyone makes allowances for Obama, giving a the best benefit of a doubt. But I cannot. There is something about this unintentional insult to people with disabilities that I find worrisome. It has slipped out too easily.

The kerfuffle reminded of the Box Hill scene in Jane Austen's Emma. After Emma offends Miss Bates in front of all their friends, Mr. Knightly reprimands her in a way that could also serve in Mr. Obama's case:

".. were she prosperous, I could allow much for the occasional prevalence of the ridiculous over the good. Were she a woman of fortune, I would leave every harmless absurdity to take its chance, I would not quarrel with you for any liberties of manner. Were she your equal in situation-- but, Emma, consider how far this is from being the case. She is poor; she has sunk from the comforts she was born to; and, if she live to old age, must probably sink more. Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honour, to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her--and before her niece, too--and before others, many of whom (certainly some,) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her."

Friday, March 20, 2009

What a wonderful world

Down at the bus station
Shark grins and sandpaper conversation
Men's faces women's bodies on the magazine stand
And a headline about Sarajevo and Tehran

The following should be read with this song playing the background:

Bob: I went for lunch at the cafe I often frequent, Cafe Crema in New Cross, and found the blackboard no longer says "Please boycott Israeli goods. Thank you." It now says "We do not use any Israeli products. We are not anti-semitic but anti-fascist. Jews are as welcome here as anyone else." So now, in my world, Israel is not just bad, it's bad and fascist.

Nidra Poller
: Thugs throwing paving stones against Swedish police cars were, of course, furious at the police for keeping them from smashing the heads of Jewish Israeli tennis players. But that is just one small chapter of their gripe against Sweden, the country that took them in and now submits to their will. Their anger is directed against the whole free world, against the very democratic societies that allow that rage to materialize under cover of “peaceful demonstrations.” [--]

As the enraged mob defied the police outside the stadium, the Israeli team pulled off an incredible victory on the tennis court, eliminating the Swedes and qualifying for the quarter finals. In an unmistakable display of bad sportsmanship, coach Mat Wilanders—a legendary tennis ace—his team and tennis federation officials reportedly turned their backs on the Israelis and walked to the lockers.

Islam In Europe:
Among Ramadan's statements: "A man is meant for a woman", "The message of Islam is very clear on this point. Homosexuality is not allowed, it is not something which is included in the general notion of man. Homosexuality is not something which we in Islam can allow" and "this problem appears to be a malfunction, bad functioning and an imbalance."

About women Ramadan says that "they may not draw attention with their appearance. On the street, such is the law, women must rigidly fix their eyes on the pavement."

UN Watch: During a debate at the U.N. Human Rights Council today, Islamic countries complained that a report on religious freedom did not adequately attack Israel, while daring to criticize Islamic countries. The report was presented by U.N. expert on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Ms. Asma Jahangir of Pakistan

Sign and Sight:
Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, Professor of Physics at the Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, caustically criticises the "grim and humourless" "Saudi-ising" of Pakistani culture and life in recent decades. "Total separation of the sexes is a central goal of the Islamists. Two decades ago the fully veiled student was a rarity on Pakistani university and college campuses. The abaya was an unknown word in Urdu; it is a foreign import. But today, some shops in Islamabad specialise in abaya. At colleges and universities across Pakistan, female students are seeking the anonymity of the burqa. Such students outnumber their sisters who still dare show their faces. While social conservatism does not necessarily lead to violent extremism, it does shorten the path. Those with beards and burqas are more easily convinced that Muslims are being demonised by the rest of the world. The real problem, they say, is the plight of the Palestinians, the decadent and discriminatory West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine, and so on. They vehemently deny that those committing terrorist acts are Muslims or, if faced by incontrovertible evidence, say it is a mere reaction to oppression. Faced with the embarrassment that 200 schools for girls were blown up in Swat by Fazlullah's militants, they wriggle out by saying that some schools were housing the Pakistan Army, who should be targeted anyway."

Terry Glavin: One World, Two States, Many Waves, One Voice.

Dreams into Lightening: Fascist tool
Roger Cohen says he "doesn't know" what would happen to Israel if the Iranian regime acquired nuclear weapons. Jeffrey Goldberg covers an exchange between Cohen and Rabbi David Wolpe.

Shark Blog: Armed force is the ultimate defense of any nation faced with enemies who speak about destruction. Gaza shows what Israel may do when faced with seven years of rocket attacks, and little more than sympathetic words from foreign visitors. The continuing blockade against the import of material to repair the damage shows persistence in the face of Hamas' refusal to back away from its sworn commitment to destroy Israel.

What some see as unpleasant or reprehensible, others see a tough country doing what is reasonable.

Nizo: In the meantime, what I do demand is a reformation of the PA, the removal of all the bahayem who line their pockets with the aid money. Dollars we were very lucky to receive in the first place. Wallah, African nations with more pressing needs are starving while we sit back, multiply, beg for handouts and get angry at the world when it doesn't go that extra stepand wipe our asses for us.

Speaking of asses, or goats, I will continue to advocate for the removal of both leaderships and their replacement with the latter, and while I don't expect to succeed, I could at least convince some of our sheep-like cheerleaders, that support for the Palestinians should come with a condition that we reform and start treating our own people more like people, and less
like goats.

Global voices:

Omid Reza Mir Sayafi, who had been sentenced to 30 months prison for insulting Islamic Republic Leaders last month, died in prsion today.Human Rights Activists in Iran site says[fa] the reason for his death has not been announced but he was in very bad psychological condition.

Have a nice day.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thumbs up to Brother Obama

His scary adulators seem to have got the right measure of the man.

During Obama's campaign, I often voiced my unease about his scary admirers:

Why do Obama's more radical constituencies keep supporting him, in spite of all the renouncing and rejecting that he has done, publicly? What do they think they know, or understand about this man?

Towards the end, I more or less bought into the official line of the Obama campaign, that reassured American Jews who traditionally voted for the Democratic Party that Obama was quite devoted to Israel's security and interests. Such a nice man, with such a nice wife and two adorable kids, who could speak so eloquently about how he understood the impossible life of the people of Sderot:

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama visited the rocket-battered southern town of Sderot on Wednesday, where he said that the entire world must act to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions...

"If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything in power to stop that, and would expect Israelis to do the same thing," he said."

That was in July 2008. The president no longer has fine words to whisper in Israel's' ears. He has no words whatsoever.

I have just read this missive:

Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi ... sought to meet the administration of President Barack Obama, but most officials were unavailable.

Diplomatic sources said Ashkenazi failed to obtain access to any Cabinet member, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The Israeli military chief, who sought to discuss the Iranian nuclear threat, won't even meet his counterpart, Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"The administration is sending a very clear message to Israel, and this is we want to talk about Palestine and not Iran," a diplomat who has been following U.S.-Israel relations said...

...diplomatic sources said the administration made it clear that nobody in a policy-making position was available to sit with Ashkenazi. This included the president, Vice President Joseph Biden, Gates, National Intelligence director Dennis Blair or Mullen.

Ashkenazi has obtained a meeting with National Security Advisor James Jones. But the sources said the meeting would focus on U.S. demands for Israel to ease military restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip..

This is a bit of a different account to the one I read here:

During a visit to Washington, D.C., Ashkenazi met with Dennis Ross, the designated U.S. envoy to the Persian Gulf, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the Iranian issue

The IDF chief told Ross that Israel would not tolerate a nuclear Iran. He said that a diplomatic approach to Iran's contentious nuclear program must be taken first, but said Israel must also prepare for other possibilities.

Ashkenazi also met during his trip with General James Jones, national security adviser to President Barack Obama, to discuss other Middle East issues. The IDF chief held a number of other meetings over the course of his visit, but was forced to turn down an invitation to dine at the home of outgoing Israeli envoy Salai Meridor, in the company of other senior American officials.

The signal begins to come out clear and loud, without any interference from undue static, that it was Obama's scary adulators who got the right measure of the man. An adulator like Hamid Dabashi, in Al-Ahram, who said February 2008:

The critical question of course at this conjuncture is that if we coloured and marginal folks -- we Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Arabs, Muslims and all the most recent (legal and illegal) immigrants to this land -- will have the courage and the imagination that Barack Obama lacks. Will we cross a fence and extend a hand to a man who is after all one of us, however he may think it politically expedient to pick and chose one thing or another from the baggage he and we have brought along across the borders?

Two of my three children... are both committed Obama fans and voted for him in the New York primaries on Super Tuesday. At this point, I am afraid the votes of my two children are all I can offer Brother Barack. Come next November, I too may leave my own darkest convictions behind and vote with the bright hope of my children.

I wonder if any journalist will have the guts to ask Obama the question that needs to be asked: Why did he make those declarations, if he had no intention of keeping them? Was it really the sort of dissimulation politicians do in order to get elected?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

In Denial

Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann,
the president of the UN General Assembly, may be Stupid And Evil
but he understands the way the winds blow in this world of ours all too well:

At the news conference, he denied ever having heard that Mr. Ahmadinejad had called for Israel to be erased, nor did he know anything about the case of Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American reporter arrested in Iran. He did not mention the plight of Darfur civilians, nor the United Nations’ effort to persuade Sudan to reverse the evictions of many humanitarian groups.


Describing the United States’ attitude toward the Council, Mr. d’Escoto said, “ ‘You either give me the green light to commit the aggression that I want to commit, or I shall declare you irrelevant.’

The difference between dishonesty and tact

(H/T: Normblog)

I wonder who will be blamed for breaking this Obama promise?

As a senator, I strongly support passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 and S.Res.106), and as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Here is Samantha Power, appealing to Armenian-Americans to put their trust in President Obama.

Yet here is the deal:

... unsurprisingly, the Obama administration is no different to any of its predecessors in discovering that the responsibilities of power require a degree of historical trimming.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the administration is "hesitating" about making any presidential statement affirming the genocide or, presumably, endorsing the annual effort to have Congress call a genocide, you know, genocide.

Norm Geras, in his customary understatement

The reason for doing so would be that the administration doesn't want to 'imperil Turkey's assistance' on various important matters. I've indicated my view about this before, so I won't repeat it. But spokespersons for the diplomatic dishonesty tact might at least credit their audience with some intelligence. Get this:

Administration officials are considering postponing a presidential statement, citing progress toward a thaw in relations between Turkey and neighboring Armenia. Further signs of warming - such as talk of reopening border crossings - would strengthen arguments that a U.S. statement could imperil the progress.

"At this moment, our focus is on how, moving forward, the United States can help Armenia and Turkey work together to come to terms with the past," said Michael Hammer, a spokesman for the National Security Council. He said the administration was "encouraged" by improvements in relations and believed it was "important that the countries have an open and honest dialogue about the past."

You see, the diplomatic tact is also in aid of further improving relations between Turkey and Armenia. How balanced. Even though it's Turkey that would be alienated by an official statement from the president. Armenians, as the report immediately goes on to say, see things differently.

Wrote about this subject here and here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Chas Freeman: the lesson

This is an important footnote to the aftermath of the Chas Freeman affair by Noah Pollak, staring the multiple bigots in the eye without blinking:

The attempt to write one religious or ethnic group out of the debate by assigning them membership in conspiracies and imputing to them dual loyalties is indeed un-American, and there should be nothing controversial about saying so.

Belgium: Muslim Holocaust Negationism

Via "Islam in Europe" comes this story:

Henri Kichka, from the Union of Jewish deportees in Belgium, had been invited last Friday by the school in Laeken, a Brussels commune, to describe how he survived Buchenwald and his family members were killed in the death camps.
During the meeting with the 150 students, the school was told by a teacher of Islamic religion that Kichka’s account “was largely exaggerated.”
“This never happened to me in 25 years,” Kichka, who is regularly invited to meet young people, told Le Soir.
The school management had decided to film the meeting because, it said, “witnesses disappear and we want to keep tracks.”

On Monday, the trade unions saw the videotape. “To us, there is no doubt, the teacher quoted negationist ideas from Roger Garaudy,” a French revisionist author and philosopher who converted to Islam and called the Holocaust a “myth”.
“This will not remain without effect,” the school said. An administrative investigation has been opened.

Education Minister in the French-speaking Belgian government Christian Dupont said he was "shocked" by the "totally unacceptable" comments by the religion teacher. An enquiry has been opened and a legal complaint lodged, the ministry said in a statement. It is studying a videotape of the event, which could lead to the teachers' dismissal.

I'm not impressed by the official response. It will do nothing, not a dent, to the Muslim self-indocrtrination in Holocaust-denial. A much more energetic, widespread and sustainable action must be undertaken to re-educate those Muslim students who populate the public schools and insist on their own grotesque historical narratives about the Holocaust.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lorenzo Cremonesi in Gaza: Information that no one is interested in knowing

Previously, and now:

(Via: Solomonia):

Lorenzo Cremonesi, who writes for the Italian daily paper Corriere della Sera, can easily be mistaken for someone suffering from a secret death wish. He is not one to steer clear of any deadly war he wants to cover, with his typical Italian eagerness. His paper sends him on special missions and Cremonesi dives into the conflict with some zest, to bring out the story.

This week he arrived at Tel Aviv University, to take part in a conference about media coverage of the war in Gaza. Unlike most of the journalists present in the room, Cremonsi was actually in Gaza during the war. He gained access into the Strip in defiance of Israel's policy. The story he told, published in part in Israel, is quite remarkable.

"I got to the other side of the border where ambulances were waiting," he recounts, "Ambulances in Gaza function like a cab service during war. I took an ambulance and started driving from one hospital to another. In order for you to understand what I uncovered, let me just tell you that at one hospital they informed me that I was in luck; that today there arrived some casualties."

Cremonsi's story, which was published in Corriere della Sera during the war, included quotes from doctors serving in Gaza hospitals, who estimated that the number of Palestinian casualties was dramatically lower than what had been published. "I am familiar with war zones very well," said Cremonesi to the other journalists, "I looked for the dead, the wounded. They were hard to find. I saw empty hospital beds."

He related a few astonishing stories. For example, how residents in the town of Al-hawa were furious with Hamas forces; these, at the height of the war with Israel, were more interested in finding the police deputy-commissioner - who was suspected of being a Fatah man - and torturing him. "Among other things," Cremonesi noted matter-of-factly, "they took out his eye."

Cremonesi related his story in connection with Israel's formal policy during the war to disallow foreign correspondents from entering Gaza. Cremonesi thought it was a stupid decision that interfered with the flow of information and eventually harmed Israel's interests. He had come into direct contact with Hamas tactics, he said, because he was present there, unlike his colleagues who did not succeed in getting into the area. Among other things he told about how Hamas fighters forced an ambulance driver to surrender his uniform to them, and about Palestinians who were enraged that Hamas had turned their neighbourhood into Qassam launching base.

"At one point I arrived at Beit- Lahya" the Italian journalist recalled. "I wanted to get into the neighbourhood, but was stopped at the entrance by a bunch of Hamas people. They refused me passage. I found out they were clearing out the corpses of slain Hamas fighters from the ditches and did not want any media coverage of this evacuation."

"After the rest of the journalists entered the strip," he said, "I found they were angry with me. They asked me; why are you serving the Israelis? What bothered them was not the quality of the information I provided. I felt that their anger and need to emphasize Palestinian suffering, were fueled by the fact that they had been prevented from entering. I have no doubt that if Israel had facilitated the entry of foreign journalists into Gaza, they would have reported the exact same stories I have. But Israel did restrict them and it was a terrible mistake."

Comment Trail:

Sign of the time:
A sign in Cafe Crema in New Cross, UK:

"We do not use any Israeli products. We are not anti-semitic but anti-fascist. Jews are as welcome here as anyone else."

My comment:

1. About that non use of Israeli products, how can I be sure? How can I be certain that the person who made my sandwich did not eat an Israeli orange just before coming to work? How do I know the barrista did not take a pill made in Israel? How can I be sure that the computerised cash register does not include an Israeli developed and manufactured component?

If we are talking moral purification, let's have it all the way to its logical end, shall we?

2. How far a leap it is from this, not at all well-intentioned, statement to this: No patrons allowed who use, have used (for the last 6 hours, two days, or ever) or intend to use, Israeli products?

3. And how would all you broad-minded people feel if instead of: "Jews are as welcome here as anyone else.", the sign would further elaborate: Jews and dogs are as welcome here as anyone else.


The Spine:

More discussion on Harry Potter (A bit about Edward Said and Harold Bloom, too)

Realist Retreads

A Decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind


The Plank:

Israel Warns Ross: We May Attack Iran

Forget Cheney, Here's What Iraqis Think

Colbert and Chait